Ordination to the Diaconate – 27 May 2023
Acts 6:1-7b; 2 Corinthians 5:14-20; John 12:24-26 

As we continue to give thanks for the great gift of Easter, it is in Jesus’ name and through the power of his resurrection that we call forth our brother – William Asinari – to the Order of Diaconate for service to this local Church of Scranton.    What a blessing this day is for Bill and for his family, our Diocese and particularly for all those who have helped him to arrive at this faith-filled moment. 

To Bill’s parents, Robert and Cathleen, and to his family, thank you for your steadfast commitment, example, support and the gift of your son to the Church. 

And to the faith community of Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Honesdale, to the parishes where Bill has served and the institutions of learning and formation that have been instrumental in bringing Bill to this day, particularly Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, to our diocesan vocation team led by Father Alex Roche along with Monsignor David Bohr and to all of the priests, deacons, religious, and faithful who, through your example and concern have helped to prepare Bill for ministry in the Church, know how grateful we all are to you.   

Bill, I know that this has been a long and arduous journey for you.  But I also know that it has been a journey well worth the time, the hard work and the deep commitment that you have given to it.  It is so apparent to us all that you have grown tremendously in your relationship with the Lord and have found your place in his plan.  And so, we all give thanks to God for the wonders that he works in our midst as he continues to call his sons and daughters to unique roles of service in his Church.

Following this homily, these words will be spoken to Bill, “Dear Son, before you enter the Order of the Diaconate, you must declare before the people your intention to undertake this office.”  You must declare before the people of God your intention.  

Why is that reality so integral to this moment in the life of the Church?  Because at the heart of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is a ministry focused on the People of God whom you, Bill – and all of us as deacons, priests and bishops – have been called to serve.  For as meaningful and significant as this moment may be for you personally, the ministry that you will embrace is not yours alone.  It comes from and is rooted in the life of the Lord Jesus – who came to save us from sin and the brokenness of our world – who came to bring us new life – and who, as noted in the second reading today from Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians has “given us the ministry of reconciliation” for the sake of the life of our world. 

The nature of your calling, Bill, is further articulated by Jesus in today’s gospel.  As the stage is set and the hour has come for the saving events of the great paschal mystery to unfold, Jesus reminds his disciples that those who wish to come to eternal life must, like him, be prepared to lay down their lives in self-gift.  “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”  In short, the disciple must be where Jesus is – and there, self-gift in love is essential.  The follower is the servant and must be where the Master is.   

Last year, in an address to the deacons of Rome, Pope Francis shared words that speak powerfully to this moment.  “Let us remember, please, that for the disciples of Jesus, to love is to serve and to serve is to reign. Power lies in service, not in anything else.  …  If we do not live this dimension of service, every ministry is emptied from within, it becomes sterile, it does not bear fruit. And little by little it becomes worldly. …  Faithful deacons who live the truth of the gospel bring God’s closeness to others without imposing themselves, serving with humility and joy. The generosity of a deacon who gives of himself without seeking the front ranks has about him the perfume of the Gospel.  He tells of the greatness of God’s humility in taking the first step.  God always takes the first step to meet even those who have turned their backs on him.”

So if you want your ministry as a deacon to be fruitful, Bill, you must root yourself in Jesus’ life and love.  The disciplines of prayer, obedience and celibacy that you are called to embrace this day are meant to enable you to grow in the same spirit of service and mercy that so characterized Jesus’ ministry.  These disciplines are not obstacles, hurdles or distractions that are somehow detached from what it means to be an ordained minister of the Church.  They are not meant to set you up as being better or greater than others.  Rather, they are the vehicles that will carry you to a deeper union with Jesus. 

Bill, your service to the People of God as a deacon is a threefold ministry:  service to the Word of God – service at the Lord’s altar – and service to the poor. 

As a deacon   …   you will proclaim the Gospel, preach homilies, convey the needs of the people of God in the General Intercessions and offer many other forms of instruction.  You are to be an agent of the New Evangelization and proclaim Christ to the world.  …  Yet in receiving the Gospel of Christ, remember that it is the truth of the message of Jesus Christ that you proclaim, not yourself.

As a deacon   …   you will also serve at the altar of the Lord, preparing it for the banquet of Christ’s sacrifice, distributing Holy Communion to the faithful, as well as to the sick and homebound.  You will baptize, preside at weddings, funerals, and other prayer services.  …  Be a good servant of the Church’s sacramental life and always point to Jesus – not yourself – as our life and our hope.

Finally, as a deacon   …   you are called to be the living and working expression of the charity of the Church.  To you, then, is entrusted in a special way the ministry of charity that is at the very origin of diaconal ministry.  As Pope Francis has reminded us, you are to go to the margins of our world where you will find the poor and the broken.  Be generous in your service, Bill, imitating the Lord who washed the feet of the apostles at the Last Supper.           

And so, with great joy, Bill, the Diocese of Scranton calls you forth for the sacrament of Holy Orders.  While you have been given tremendous gifts and talents, we pray that you will always rely upon the grace of God to fill up whatever may be lacking in you to carry out fully the ministry entrusted to you this day.

I now ask that you proclaim your intentions before the People of God and trust that God who has begun the good work in you will bring it to fulfillment.